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Report on the 2012 conference of the (U.S.) United National Antiwar Coalition
The United National Antiwar Coalition ( UNAC) held its second national conference March 23-25 in Stamford, Connecticut. According to the organizers, more than 500 people attended, including a sizable number of Muslims attracted by UNAC's strong stand and activism against Islamophobia.
UNAC is the largest, broadest and most active national antiwar coalition in the U.S. today. Founded in July 2010, its unifying principle is opposition to all U.S. wars and interventions, sanctions, blockades and interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and promoting that opposition through independent mass actions.
The conference promoted two major events: a mass protest May 20 in Chicago outside the NATO summit meeting, and a June 16 march and rally to protest police spying on Muslims in the New York City area.
A central issue at this year's conference – and the most contentious one – concerned the Islamic Republic of Iran. Three of the conference's 49 workshops and three of the 12 proposed resolutions dealt with Iran. At issue was the effort by two participating organizations (only one of which is affiliated with UNAC) to put UNAC on record as condemning what they say is government repression of pro-democracy forces in Iran, while projecting that those forces represent all Iranians outside the government.
UNAC affiliates hold a wide range of views about Iran's internal situation, but until now most have agreed that the only proper role for Northamerican progressives is to oppose war, sanctions and any interference in the internal affairs of other countries by the Western powers. In the case of Iran, even most forces that oppose the Iranian government understand that it is especially wrong for U.S. activists to denounce that government while it is being targeted by Washington. This is a position on which CASMI has fought hard and successfully.
One of the three resolutions dealing with Iran would have put UNAC on record as saying “No to Imperialism, No Support for Dictatorships or Theocracy, For the People Always.” A second called for UNAC to adopt the following statement as a point of unity: “We oppose war and sanctions against the Iranian people and stand in solidarity with their struggle against state repression and all forms of outside intervention.”
In response, UNAC's Coordinating Committee introduced a counter-resolution, reiterating UNAC's position of opposing war, sanctions and internal interference, without taking positions on the internal affairs of countries targeted by the U.S. and its allies.
The debate over these three resolutions was very heated and the longest of the weekend. The first two resolutions were roundly defeated, with each getting less than a third of the votes, but showing the need for more education on this issue. The UNAC resolution passed virtually unanimously.
Within UNAC, CASMII plays a key role on the Iran issue. CASMII members wrote the resolution on Iran that was adopted at the last conference and were asked to draft a statement a few months ago expanding on that resolution. This year we didn't introduce a new resolution, because UNAC is already on record as restricting itself to opposing war, sanctions and interference and we felt that a new resolution would distract from the need to support the one introduced by the UNAC leadership. CASMII members and allies spoke against the opposing resolutions, and we were the only speakers to challenge the claim that anti-IRI groups speak for all Iranians.
We also sponsored a very successful workshop on Iran, titled “Targeting Iran: The Truth Behind the Hype.” More than 70 people attended, making it one of the larger workshops. The panelists were Mansoureh Tajik, an Iranian-born doctor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts; Iranian-born Kazem Azim from Solidarity Iran; Sara Flounders of the International Action Center; Ken Stone of the Canadian Peace Alliance; and Phil Wilayto, representing CASMII and the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality. Ana Edwards chaired, also representing CASMII and the Defenders. The audience was very supportive, with no one opposing the speakers. We distributed the CASMII fact sheet to everyone who attended.
Other, smaller workshops on Iran were sponsored by the Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, which opposes the Iranian government, and the American Iranian Friendship Committee.
This conference showed two things: that the antiwar movement in the U.S. is alive and active, and that most U.S. activists understand that their proper role is to get Washington off the backs of the rest of the world's peoples, and have enough respect that those peoples can solve any internal problems they may have without the “benefit” of outside interference.